The Cow Fulani of my youth

The Cow Fulani we knew in my village, 30, 40 years ago, were peaceful and accommodating. As children, because they came seasonally, whenever we sighted them and their herd, we welcomed them with the song: “Labalaba koro, malu koro”. I never understood what the lyrics meant and still don›t. We however, sang it happily and followed them; YES, we followed our HERDSMEN, singing our song. They in return cheerfully gave us kulikuli, sometimes it was wara (cheese). They were harmless, tall, handsome, and always smiling at our innocence. They carried only their staff, a long but tiny stick, with which they commanded their herd. On very rare occasions, a few of them carried dane guns made by our blacksmiths. We call that type of gun, sakabula; once fired, you have to reload the powder and the bullets manually. And come to think of it, those wonderful Cow Fulani of those days, hunted bush rats and rabbits with their sakabula and generously shared same with the locals. In some cases, our Cow Fulani joined the local hunters in hunting expeditions and shared their booties without acrimony.

But nowadays, hardly does a day pass without a tale of how herdsmen or ‘suspected herdsmen’ are wreaking one havoc or the other on hapless and helplessly helpless Nigerians. The reprehensive, equally daunting and audacious activities of these special species of Nigerians range from killings, to kidnappings, amputation of victims’ limbs and outright destruction of a people’s means of livelihood. We have heard cases where these men were reported to have sacked communities and rendered thousands of people homeless, their abodes having been burnt down completely.

As part of our curriculum in those days when our leaders were desirous that we knew a little about our beings and races, History, as a subject, was made part of our studies in the secondary schools. In those days of beautiful leadership and prosperous Nigeria, once a student moved from Form Two to Form Three, he or she would have the opportunity to drop Social Study and pick either History or Geography or a combination of both. Even at the primary school level, Civics was part of the school modules.

In ‘History Made Easy’, authored by S. O. Ilesanmi. we were gleefully taught about the types of tribes, cultures and other people’s ways of life and world outlooks. In that textbook, we learnt about the  Town Fulani; the aristocratic sect of the Fulani Race, and the Cow Fulani, otherwise known as Bororo, which represents the pastoral class of the race. Cow Fulani, we were taught, ‘are nomadic in nature and they move from one place to the other, pasturing their herds’. That definition of a Cow Fulani resonated well with us because, before we came to the classrooms to learn about them, we had seen them in our communities.

Those wonderful Cow Fulani men that we grew up knowing, also reared their cattle across our farmlands without tampering with the farm produce. They had eyes and intelligence that enabled them to differentiate between a cassava farm and an open field of grasses. They knew that human beings invested energy and time to grow those farms and they avoided them. The locals also reciprocated by assisting them in whatever way they could. They gave them food items and water for their flocks. There was a time one of the cows fell inside what we called ‘koto sawyer’ (the pit dug by loggers) and almost the entire community assisted in bringing the poor animal out. They respected our cultures, customs and traditions and we too treated them with love and respect.

Again, that has since changed. In contrast to the affable Cow Fulani of yonder years, what we  have now are belligerent, cantankerous and murderous lots, who snapped at the drop of a hat. Replacing the kulikuli-giving cow rearers of the past are merchants of deaths, who ply their sanguine trade with reckless abandon. Now, we have ‘visitors’ who come down South without any intention to respect the feelings of their host communities, but to terrorise, kill the old and young; rape the virgins and the post menopausal and visit anguish, pains and calamity on a people that were once nice to their forebears.

The modern day Cow Fulani don’t carry dane guns anymore but sophisticated AK47 rifles with a huge cache of ammunition. They no longer hunt for games and share with the locals, rather they hunt the locals and donate their flesh to the birds of the air. The nowadays herdsmen are no longer seasonal visitors, but a rampaging army of occupation who don’t believe in land ownership but regard every land on which their feet touch as God’s gift to them.

The  new set of Cow Fulani are not just tendering their cattle again, they are on an expansionist mission; securing for their promoters, the deep blue water of the Atlantic Ocean. And the most unfortunate part of it is that they are not hiding the fact that they are of conquerors.

As one begins to wonder when or how the warm-hearted and friendly Cow Fulani of yore lost his humanity and became as bestial as an hyena, one must equally wonder if these set of blood-thirsty herdsmen just dropped  from the Jupiter and were not in existence when other men ruled this country. One must interrogate how and when these killer herdsmen acquired their boldness and temerity;  how they suddenly became audacious and operated with impunity. We need to, as a nation, find answers to these challenging befuddlements if we must get to the root of the modus operandi of the 21st century Cow Fulani and take action so that Nigeria will survive and the labours of those who fought for independence and those who laid down their lives in the task of “keeping Nigeria One” will not be in vain.

I personally have no hassle laying the blames of the current bloodletting, kidnapping and other antisocial behaviours of the new Cow Fulani at the doorstep of the administration of General Muhammadu Buhari, the man who, by the grace of God and the will of the Nigerian people, is the president of the country. Leadership matters and good leadership makes a lot of differences in the affairs of a people. The Cow Fulani or the herdsmen are not just operating recklessly on their own. Like our elders will say, whenever you see a tadpole dancing on the surface of the water, know and know well that its drummer is beneath the water. The cow Fulani of today are carrying on the way they are because they know that a big power is behind them.

But, let us ask: were there no herdsmen during the reign of General Olusegun Obasanjo? Were there no cattle rearers during the time of the late President Umar Yar’adua? Were the herdsmen on sabbatical when President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan held sway? If you answer in the affirmative, then ask again: what did others do that is different from what the Buhari administration is doing? Why has the lawlessness and inhumanity of these killer herdsmen in its apex in this present administration?

Truth be told, General Buhari might not have asked the Cow Fulani, who incidentally are his kinsmen, to go on a rampage. He might not have armed them physically to carry out their killings and kidnappings wherever they go. He doesn’t even need to do any of those things. His taciturnity; his body language and his inability to act decisively, whenever a massacre is visited on any part of this country by the herdsmen emboldens the killer gang. This is where the blame comes in.

Forget about those telling us to give up our land and live, Nigeria is sitting precariously on a keg of gunpowder with the unchecked activities of the herdsmen. No leader goes to bed with his roof on fire and wakes up to see the edifice standing the following morning. The activities of the herdsmen are tantamount to the proverbial fire on our roof. The man of the house is unfortunately snoring. I think the Commander-in-Chief should be concerned about how history will record him later in life. He should ask why he fought to ‘Keep Nigeria One’ and then keeps mute when the very continuity of the country he risked his life for is threatened.

General Buhari got the presidency after the fourth attempt. Why did he go through that tedious journey if the existence of the country during his reign means nothing to him. History is not a kind phenomenon. On the three occasions that Buhari contested and lost, one of the issues that worked against him was the issue of tribalism, his pure hegemonic propensity. Are those who opposed him then not justified now? Is the General not aware that it is axiomatic that once a man is accused of being a thief, he should not be seen at night playing with a kid? Has nobody told him that when a man is labelled ‘a man with long intestine’, he should make deliberate efforts to control his gastronomic rapacity?

I put my shirt on it: If General Buhari speaks today, if he acts today; if he gives the marching order and backs it up with visible actions; if he tells his brother cattle rearers that the life of any Nigerian is worth more than a herd of cows; if he takes the call and makes an example of any of the blood sucking herdsmen, Nigeria will return to the good old days, when we used to sit down in our farm huts to roast, spice up and eat games killed by Cow Fulani, while they, in turn munch the yam roasted by the farmers and their cows drink from the streams tendered and maintained by the locals. But will he?

 

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